European Commission explored challenges and opportunities involving cross-border programmes during a productive visit to Estonia

The European Commission’s Directorate-General for Regional and Urban Policy (DG REGIO) had a fruitful visit to Estonia this week, organised by the Ministry of Regional Affairs and Agriculture.

At the beginning of 2024, significant changes were made to the Central Baltic and other EU cross-border programmes, with increased funding and expanded coverage. In response to these modifications, representatives engaged with key stakeholders and visited funded projects to understand how Interreg cooperation programmes have addressed and can continue to tackle the challenges faced by the European Union and its citizens, particularly in light of Russia’s aggression towards Ukraine.

Throughout the week (15-19.1.2024), EC representatives met with the Ministry of Regional Affairs and Agriculture in Estonia and held discussions with regional representatives from North-East and South-Estonia regions. To witness the tangible impact of funded projects, they visited initiatives supported by ENI CBC and Central Baltic programmes.

Merike Niitepõld, Head of Managing Authority of the Central Baltic Programme, stressed the importance of understanding challenges in regions along the EU’s external borders. She highlighted the significance of site visits to Narva and Narva-Jõesuu, where the 30-MILES project contributed to tourism development and maritime safety in the Gulf of Finland’s port network.

EC representatives actively engaged in collaborative discussions with external border regions of Estonia and Latvia, meeting with national authorities from both countries. An overview was provided on projects funded by Interreg Central Baltic, Estonia-Latvia, and EU External Borders programmes at the Tartu Centre for Creative Industries. Noteworthy projects, including CAITO and Rural Lifestyle, funded by the Central Baltic Programme, were spotlighted for their positive impact on tourism.

Jean-Pierre Halkin, Head of the Unit for Interreg, Cross-Border Cooperation, Internal Borders at DG REGIO, expressed appreciation for collective efforts to maximise positive outcomes in response to the evolving geopolitical situation. In conclusion, Halkin stated, “These projects are delivering the EU effort to citizens, and we can learn from practitioners’ experience. We recognise the dedication of all involved parties in navigating challenges for the benefit of regions and citizens within the European Union.”

Author of the images in the gallery: Merike Niitepõld